It’s coming up to 5 years since I last visited the most well attended theme park in Europe outside of Disneyland. 2016 was a time when Europa Park had more coasters than anywhere else on the continent, when Energylandia was just a small(er) handful of Vekomas, the ridiculousness of Wonderland Eurasia was still under construction (only to close almost immediately after opening) and the permanent funfair setup of Wiener Prater hadn’t quite reached the dizzying numbers we see today. Since that time Europa themselves have only added their smallest coaster to date, choosing to mainly focus on investments in other areas such as dark rides, hotels and a water park and it makes sense not to play the numbers game – they are by far the superior destination in terms of a complete theme park package.
This was also a time in which I had barely done any rollercoaster riding, relatively, something that’s quite hard for me to imagine now. The visit was part of what we consider our first true ‘theme park trip’ outside of the UK and there was much less experience to draw on when forming opinions about new rides, a process which became entirely unavoidable the more I came to learn what I liked and disliked the most. With all that time to dwell on this place over years, opinions have primarily come down to those standout memories and moments that have stuck in my mind. One thing I do remember is not really walking away with a definite favourite and I think I’m still going to struggle today to pick one.
We could call that a weakness of a park lineup, with no one standout attraction making you desperate to return for more (and though the opportunity has arisen, I haven’t yet done this), but in this series we see this as a strength, a sign of a great park. And it really is one of those, for many other reasons. We just don’t know how the list is going to turn out (I don’t, even now), there’s no obvious pick for the top spot and there’s definitely a large and well rounded set of high quality coasters in between, which is always an achievement in itself – keeping the roster both broad and equally enticing.
I’m sure I will visit again at some point, perhaps when they get round to their next big coaster or maybe even sooner just to pick up several new dark rides – another collection aspect of the hobby that is heading towards the forefront of my interests right now. In the meantime, let’s get on with this list as I see it today, excluding Baa-a-a-Express of course.
We begin with the park’s powered coaster which, while not an objectively bad attraction by any means (I do have to point out that nothing in this list actually is, well done Europa) was severely hampered at the time of our visit by the recently popularised Virtual Reality trend in the industry. I don’t have any good pictures of the ride but it looks great from the outside and does pass through this heavily themed indoor section of the park that is a bit of a hidden gem in itself and I really don’t see why you’d want to strap a mobile phone to your face to watch a crude video that may or may not even work and subsequently miss out on all of this.
The predominant emotion throughout this ride was fear of getting my bag wet as it was perched precariously on top of the restraint as instructed by the ride hosts. Water coasters are fine and all that, they usually look rather nice and it’s a +1 to the count of course, but I just don’t think there’s much to be said about the actual coaster part, particularly on this type of installation. Unless it’s really hot and you want to get soaked, it’s an obvious one and done.
So it’s a good thing the park has two of these then, isn’t it? We see a little here how Europa is also a showroom for Mack Rides, the owners of the establishment. Two different styles of their water coaster model are present in different areas of the park and while the other one shows off turntables and backwards drops, this one demonstrates smaller boats and a more significant coasting section with some twists and turns. It’s equally well themed, equally wet and almost as equally uneventful as an actual ride.
I really admire how this one is squeezed in, around and on top of the Swiss land which it inhabits. The theme is perfect for the ride of course and it’s a good time to give a shoutout to how intensely efficient the operations are in this park. If you stand in this spot there will likely be something whizzing past you more than once a minute. As far as Mack Bobsleds go, having since ridden them all across the world, this original is just a bit smaller and weaker, never really getting the chance to get properly going and feel in any way out of control – paving the way for a better future.
A fairly standard Wilde Maus, of which Mack are one of several competing manufacturers. They churned out a bunch of the most commonly seen layout just before the turn of the millenium, but this home installation was the first to have a different layout and also came with the bonus feature of an elevator lift. Going up in the lift as it tilts unnervingly to one side and back again is the most fascinating part of the experience these days, with chains such as Legoland having since snapped up an extortionate number of the same model, sans lift. I wonder why it didn’t interest anyone.
I feel like I’m being a little generous in this placement but I’m going to give Arthur the benefit of the doubt for what it is, or at least tries to be. Truthfully I remember very little of the on-board experience and for some reason have no personal photos to jog any further memories. What I do know is that the whole attraction process rubbed us up the wrong way, from the awful locker process to the seemingly sporadic intent of the ride system. As an inverted powered coaster with train rows that independently swivel, the hardware is best suited to that of a dark ride experience, which the only other Mack built model to date proves to an extraordinary extent (let’s not talk about the Beijing Shibaolai shambles).
Arthur half does this, half doesn’t, taking some time to meander around some outdoor portions of track that break the momentum somewhat. The storyline was completely lost on me along with all the actual theming and screen based activities and so the single standout moment was swooping down over the publicly acessible indoor section of the main area, full of the hustle and bustle of guest activity. A spectacle that should definitely become a signature of any future installations.
The other of the two VR experiences we had in this park was found on Pegasus, the debut of Mack’s Youngstar model. Sadly this far superior piece of hardware hasn’t taken off on anywhere near the same level as certain designs above, likely with such stiff competition from the prolific Vekoma Junior. I really like the Youngstars for what they are – family coasters with a bit of fire in their hearts, a few more forces than your average attempt while being almost unnervingly smooth.
The VR itself was actually better here too, though still not something I’d actively choose to have, it had an unusual and jarring moment that has always stuck with me – one of the pictured characters leaps up out of the seat next to you, mid-ride, and if your brain has come to subconsciously accept that the characters just are just regular guests by this point, it’s quite the shock to suddenly notice one of them is no longer restrained and is free to invite physical injury. It demonstrates the real power of VR psychology that I have not seen used effectively, in the slightest, on any theme park attraction since, making it a total waste.
I think we’ve now hit the heart and soul of this park. This big crazy spinning coaster loosely themed to Russian space travel has an incredibly long spiral lift system filled with the thunderous sounds of an entertaining techno tune. While inside you can look up (or down) and just see endless track and, more amusingly, several other trains making their way up to the top with you, not something you’d have on any conventional lift system for sure. It’s a great system for holding suspense and padding the runtime (and capacity) significantly. The outdoor portion begins with many high up turns in and out of the striking structures, similar to that of a wild mouse, but the second half is where things really pick up, with several fast and tight corners over some nice landscaping of rocks and water. It can be a little violent at times, but I respect that.
Except Euro Mir wasn’t even the first to do the whole spiral lift hill in darkness, music blaring bit. Eurosat does it even better, with a gorgeous soundtrack that still reaches me on a deeper emotional level even today. There was so much quirk about this ride that I simply adored, most significantly the astronaut whose projection mapped face was stuck through a wall, talking inaudibly to the train that had just departed the station.
The coaster section was wild, vicious and out of control, taking place entirely indoors and hurtling down through some retro planetary theming and I loved the layout as much as the rest of the attraction. Narratively it didn’t fit into the France area of the park at all, but that made it all the more endearing to me. This fact has since been rectified (broken) by a retheme of the ride to Moulin Rouge and may well be an active factor in why I have been cautious of a return visit. I don’t want my memories of Eurosat to be potentially ruined without a very good reason.
At the time of the visit, Blue Fire was definitely a strong contender for my park favourite. As perhaps the most successful of all their prototypes to be showcased here, we’re now approaching double figures for the number of installations of this exact layout to crop up around the world. And I’ve ridden my fair share of them since then too. So while I still really enjoy the ride, it now loses out to the leaders here on pure lack of uniqueness.
This still remains the greatest example of the layout as far as I can tell. The landscaping and aesthetic is particularly gorgeous and the fact that it has a soundtrack specifically tailored to, and synced with, the onboard experience is one of my absolute favourite things about this park. The coaster itself is well rounded with a launch, inversions that are either graceful or intense and a smattering of airtime for good luck. Can’t really go wrong with this one.
The other coaster in the Iceland area further enhances the vibe of what is generally considered the best area in the park. The way the rides loosely intertwine with each other, while still having a separate and impressive entrance area and set of theming makes it feel all the more magical as you enter into the realm of Wodan. The queue goes on for an age through dense rocky caves before emerging up the stairs into the station where you’re treated to both the signature GCI flythrough and some creepy statues that turn their heads to both greet the train on arrival and see it out on departure.
I massively enjoyed this woodie on the whole, it was a significant step up from almost any other I’d experienced before though it would be a lie to say I was as completely enthralled by it as I would liked to have been, knowing now what the manufacturer can really do if they put their mind to it – they could have made it a clear winner here. It starts off relentless and had me quietly chuckling with joy by the end of it, with some less eventful bits in the middle. Can’t really go wrong with this one.
I think I’ve just about settled, in this very moment, for the B&M hyper to come out on top. And that’s not very indicative of my tastes these days, as I tend to like these rides less than most it seems. However, Silver Star still remains one of the strongest examples of the type for me and I’m reasonably confident that that’s not just down to lack of experience at the time. It behaved differently, with more moments of pure ejector and less of the faffy floater than I’ve come to expect. The main caveat is that this only worked in the back row. If we move to the front of the train it’s business as usual, a bit more sluggish and less exhilarating and that would be enough drop it at least a couple of spots in this list – it’s that close up here at the top. Can’t really go wrong with this park.